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10 Years After Million Man March, African Americans Return to Washington


Ten years ago, the historic Million Man March drew hundreds of thousands of African American men to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Organizers of that event have scheduled a similar gathering in Washington October .

Saturday's event is expected to draw members of Congress, hip hop music artists, civil rights activists, media pundits, academics and business leaders, Muslim and Christian religious figures -- and busloads of thousands of mostly African American men, women, and children from across the country.

"The Millions More Movement is a gathering and assembly of a diverse group of leaders across the country and their constituents to come together to bring a perspective to resolving issues that are pressing as they relate to America's poor," says Linda Wharton-Boyd is the spokeswoman for the Millions More Movement.

She compares the Millions More Movement to a large family holding a family meeting. "The gathering is the launching pad, the impetus that will move people toward long-term solutions to problems. It's just like when you have a family meeting, you call people together, you talk about the issues, ways to resolve the problem -- and then the family collectively decides what it's going to do."

The issues the Millions More Movement plans to address "affect the daily life of anybody living in America," Ms. Wharton-Boyd says. "Our issues fall into the area of health, social services, health, reparation, political stability, cultural development," she says.

African American leaders have criticized the federal government for not responding quickly enough to help poor black residents in New Orleans, Louisiana, when the city was recently devastated by a hurricane and flooding. Linda Wharton-Boyd says the natural disaster shed light on the fact that many African Americans are poor and -- as the organizers of the march see it -- have been victims of discrimination because of their race and lower-class status.

But the spokeswoman for the Millions More Movement says Saturday's event is not a protest. "The event will not be tied to President Bush as much as it will to what we need to do ourselves as a group of people," she says. "A lot which is invisible in America was recently made visible through Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. As a result, people know now more than ever the need to come together and bring our skills together to help others." Ms. Wharton-Boyd says workshops as well as speakers will address that need.

One of the leaders of the Millions More Movement is Minister Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, an African American Muslim movement. Minister Farrakhan has been accused by the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, among others, of anti-Semitism. This has raised some questions about the march itself. Ms. Wharton-Boyd, however, says, "While others have defined him that way, he is not defined that way by many of his own community and he himself does not define himself that way."

News reports say that, compared to a decade ago, there's been a lot less publicity about this event -- fewer radio advertisements and street posters -- and fewer buses chartered for the roundtrip to Washington, D.C. But organizers predict a large crowd. And in that crowd, they say, will be many of the men who attended the original event ten years ago -- older, wiser, and eager to take on leadership roles in their community.

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